Port in a storm
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Port in a storm

Meanwhile, the Englewood family friend called UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey to get the Baruchs some help. The next day the Baruchs were at Jewish Family Service in Teaneck, still in a state of shock. At that moment, Fox called JFS about the vacant house.

Yelena Tishchenko, JFS coordinator of adult case management and advocacy, coordinated the efforts between the agency and Kesher. Also, without the assistance of David Gad-Harf, associate executive vice president and chief operating officer of UJA-NNJ, said Tischenko, "we wouldn’t have gotten the financial assistance we needed for their basic living expenses — like food and utilities."

"I love Rabbi Fox because he brought everyone together," says Daniel Baruch, "and for that we want to give the community a big, big thanks. All those camps coming together like one big family proves we are more similar than different."

The feelings of warmth and gratitude seem to be mutual, by all accounts.

The Baruchs’ first consideration has been to keep their 3 1/’-year-old daughter Liliya stable and feeling safe. They know she senses their moods, and are very careful not to show despair and frustration around her. But the wealth of generosity aimed at them can sometimes be overwhelming.

Valerie Baruch says this experience has changed her profoundly, especially her relationship with the "stuff" she surrounded herself with. She and Daniel met in Israel, where she was living on a moshav and many of the things that have disappeared are memories of those days.

"There are so many things we took for granted. The stockpot. A needle and thread. A pair of scissors; a flathead screwdriver. Now we have a roof over our heads, a shell, and we can start fresh, but we still miss all those things that created our ‘nest’; we still feel unsteady and temporary. We have yet to calm our souls.

"We lost our favorite things except each other." The hard part she says, is finding new favorite things — like the mermaids she’d made for Liliya out of scraps from her fabric collection, now gone.

Daniel Baruch just set up a homepage with his resume at www.dbstudio.tv. As an audio engineer he’s mixed thousands of shows — from two speaker sets in a club to televised concerts for a half million people. "I want something with a steady paycheck, that will let me stay local and with my family."

But the most emotionally wrenching thing Daniel had to do was to go back to New Orleans to their dream house, once the waters receded.

"It was devastating, an indescribable mess. Ruinous, black mold, unknown toxic substances that smelled like sewage, were on everything. Beautiful things that we worked so hard to create were destroyed. No one would have believed that this could happen," he said. He couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward.

Daniel’s maternal grandmother survived the Holocaust, and Valerie gets through tough times by reminding herself of what survivors went through. She tells of a poignant moment that came after sorting through bags and bags of "stuff" generously donated to find what fit their needs.

"A beautiful woman at the school Liliya attends brought us two dolls her daughters chose from their collection for her, special handcrafted dolls. She had asked her daughters to choose carefully because they were going to be a special gift. They were gifts from the heart, the giving away of something that was precious to her and her girls, because she understood we had lost precious things. We just stood there and wept."

When the almost unprecedented cooperation between Bergen County organizations is described to the Baruchs, along with the gratitude everyone feels for being allowed to help, Valerie says, "It’s great to see the larger perspective; if it helps make the community stronger, we are grateful for that, too!"

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